There are around 9,000 dog bite incidents in New Zealand every year, a third of which involve children under the age of nine. And just this week, there was another particularly horrific example of this when a Kiwi youngster was mauled by a pitbull.
The aftermath of this incident has again led to fierce debate, with some blaming irresponsible pet owners and others pointing the finger at so-called aggressive dog breeds.
Yesterday, Pedigree also added its voice to the public discussion by launching ‘Dog Story’, an interactive app that teaches children how to interact with dogs (the app is available for iOS and Android) .
The campaign was originally set to launch at the end of the week, but Colenso BBDO brought it forward due to the public interest in the issue of dog safety.
Colenso digital planning director Neville Doyle says it wasn’t much of a logistical challenge to launch the campaign early, because it has been in the making since February 2015 and all the creative elements were ready to be rolled out.
The app at the centre of the campaign takes children on an educational adventure through an animated game that features a variety of different interactions with dogs along the way.
Colenso BBDO teamed up with the animation team at Watermark to bring the whole concept to life.
“It was about finding that balance between something that’s entertaining and takes a child on an adventure, but is still able to deliver a really important message on dog safety,” says Colenso executive creative director Aaron Turk.
Colenso made the decision to focus on teaching children about dog behaviour after discovering that over 75 percent of all dog bite injuries occur in the home environment where the dog is known to the child and most often because the child doesn’t understand how to behave safely around dogs.
“It’s not random dogs,” says Doyle. “So what we wanted to do was solve that by getting parents and kids to identify fact points and read dog body language better."
Colenso BBDO group account director Ahmad Salim says the point of the campaign isn’t to turn New Zealanders into dog behavioural experts but rather to give children advice on how to stay safe around dogs.
“It’s about learning the most important lessons and honing in on those where there’s a big education gap,” Salim says.
In speaking to Salim, Turk and Doyle, this notion of an ‘education gap’ comes up numerous times, and it is in some ways reminiscent to Dog WhispererCesar Milan’s opinion that humans often need more training than dogs.
“That’s what we found too," says Turk. "Dogs are just being dogs. It’s quite easy to point the finger at dogs, but what we should really be trying to do here is trying to ensure that the next generation of adults or Kiwis understand dogs and have a better appreciation of them."
To drive the message home, Pedigree has partnered with Auckland Council and app will be introduced in schools as part of the education curriculum from next month—and Doyle believes this could have the effect of relaying the message to parents as well.
“The idea is that kids will bring this experience home and share it with their parents,” Doyle says. “Kids love to teach their parents things. One of the things we’ve noticed over this whole process is a lot of people in their 30s don’t know a number of the core behavioural rules around dogs. I, for one, have always been a dog person, but I’ve learnt that I always put my hand in the wrong place when around dogs.”
But New Zealand isn’t the only place where this education gap exists. And as was the case with K9FM and the Found app, Peidgree will also be rolling this initiative out in the international market.
Salim says while the campaign might be launching here, Colenso has already made the app available for download in all international markets and the next step will be to localise the creative to make it more relevant in various regions.
Doyle adds that Pedigree's willingness to invest in large-scale projects like this comes down to its desire to make the world a better place for dogs.
"Pedigree are constantly challenging us to come with pieces like this. They’re never just happy doing standard above-the-line comms. They’re constantly looking for ways to bring their proposition to life for consumers.”
Doyle says that these campaigns aim to show customers—rather than just tell them—that Pedigree is committed to the cause.
“It’s all very well to say ‘we’re for dogs and we want to make the world a better place for dogs’ but you’ve got to back that up with action. And I think Pedigree does that better than any other brand in the market.”
This approach also seems to be at work in other markets, with Pedigree also extending beyond traditional campaigns to get its message across. This was recently also on show in Spain, where the brand's agency Saatchi & Saatchi Madrid released a contraption that automatically posts images to a dog's social media channel when it wags its tail excitedly—showing exactly what makes the pooch happy.
Doyle believes that campaigns like these, which help brands to build a clearly defined purpose, will becoming increasingly important as the industry continues to evolve.
"Advertising sits at the crossroads of culture and it gives us the opportunity to do good in the world," he says.